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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Bouncing back from injuries

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Bouncing back from injuries

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, September 23, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Raiders at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 9
—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (10/23) 30
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 36

The Redskins week that was

Cravens officially won't return in 2017—This was the news that the Redskins had put Cravens on the reserve/left team list, which meant he can’t come back during the 2017 season. While we might hear something more on this before the end of December, the story is on hold until 2018. If Cravens does come back, he would start the second year of his rookie contract. The deal essentially is on hold until he returns (if he does, of course).

5 observations on the Redskins win over the Rams—The top takeaway was “you have to run the ball to run the ball.” Yes, it’s an obvious statement but the logic of it seems to escape Jay Gruden from time to time, as it did Sean McVay. Since Gruden came to Washington the Redskins are 3-19 when they rush for fewer than 90 yards and 1-14 when they attempt fewer than 20 runs. They committed to the run on Sunday and 229 rushing yards later they had the win.

Strong start for Smith but Redskins want to see more—Preston Smith has frustrated coaches with his inconsistency ever since arriving as a second-round pick in 2015. So, it’s too early to start thinking he’s going to have a breakout year after he started off with two sacks in two games. Still, a hot start is a key component to a breakout year and we’ll see if he keeps it up against tough opposition in the next two weeks.

First look at Redskins vs. Raiders—A Bay Area writer says that the Raiders’ offense is “doing whatever it wants” during the team’s 2-0 start. They are fourth in the NFL in total offense but they have that status primarily due to piling up 430 yards against the tanking Jets. I have no doubt that they will move the ball tomorrow night but I’m not so sure the will do whatever they want against an improved Washington defense.

Jay Gruden updates a lengthy injury report—When Gruden rattled off the injury list during his Monday press conference he listed seven players who were “day-to-day” with various injuries sustained during their physical win over the Rams. Six days later, it will be a surprise if any of them are out against the Rams tomorrow. Perhaps the most impressive injury return was that of Mason Foster. During the game, his shoulder was dislocated. He popped it back in and didn’t miss a snap. On Wednesday, less than 72 hours later, he was at practice giving some solid shoves to a blocking sled.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins' offense is having third-down issues

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Need to Know: Redskins' offense is having third-down issues

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 13, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Cardinals at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and open locker room after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Broncos @ Redskins Christmas Eve (12/24) 11
—Redskins @ Giants (12/17) 18
—NFL Draft (4/26/18) 134

Redskins trade one problem for another

Just when it seems the Redskins have a handle on one problem on offense, they have lost their grip on another.

Last year, their red zone offense left a lot to be desired. They scored touchdowns 45.9 percent of the time they had possession inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. That was 29th in the NFL. This year they have solved that problem, scoring touchdowns on 57.9 percent of their red zone trips, a respectable 11th in the league.

But now, they have another, perhaps more serious problem. Last year, the Redskins converted 45.2 percent of their third-downs. This year, that is down to 34.9 percent, 27th in the league.

If you take a closer look you will find that, as is often the case, problems on third down stem from issues on first and second down. When the Redskins were humming along on third down last year their average distance to go for a first was 6.4 yards. This year they average 7.3 yards to go. That extra yard to go makes a difference.

On third down the focus usually goes to the quarterback. This year, Kirk Cousins’ performance hasn’t been significantly different this year from what it was last year. On third down in 2016, he completed 61 percent of this passes with 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.0. This year the line is 60.6/9/4/93.5. He was a little better last year but that doesn’t account for the drop.

One area that has hurt the Redskins is that their third-down rushing effectiveness has dropped. Last year they got first downs on 74 percent of their third-down runs. This year that has plummeted to 46.7 percent.

It might be easy to point the finger at the injuries on the offensive line to explain this but they only converted on 50 percent of their third-down rushing attempts in the first five games of the season, when the line was mostly healthy.

One area that has not hurt them directly is third-downs sacks. The Redskins gave up 12 of them last year and they are on pace to give up the same number in 2017. That doesn't mean that pass protection is not an issue. In 13 games this year they have given up 14 more sacks (37) than they did in all of 2016 (23). That certainly contributes to the offensive have further to go on average third down plays this year. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s been a problem all year and it has gotten worse lately. As they have lost five of their last six games, they have gone 21 of 67 on third downs, a 31.3 percent conversion rate.

To put the Redskins’ season in perspective, they have only converted at a rate of 45 percent, their success rate for all of 2016, in two games this year.

This past offseason the Redskins organization set out to try to fix the red zone problem and even though they could do better they have made a lot of progress. They will need place similar attention to third downs this year (and hope that they can maintain the progress they made in the red zone.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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In case you missed it

Gruden sends a mixed message on PAT

How hot are the seats at Redskins Park?

Under evaluation, Kirk Cousins delivers bad performance

After suffering from concussions, Su'a Cravens is cleared

Reed's unsatisfying season has come to an official end

   

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Devin Hester deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why

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Devin Hester deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why

Devin Hester officially announced his NFL retirement on Tuesday after 11 years as the most feared return specialist in NFL history. 

Hester who spent a majority of his career with the Bears and Falcons finished with 20 return touchdowns, the most in NFL history. His 14 punt return touchdowns is also an NFL record. Hester also returned a missed field goal for an 108-yard touchdown. He became just one of eight men to score a kick return touchdown in the Super Bowl. 

It wasn't just what he did, but how he did it, and that matters. Hester was explosively and entertaining, sometimes taking a route well longer than the official length of his return touchdown. Hester had the combination of speed and quickness you only see once in a generation. 

Devin Hester is worthy of a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why.

Hester is the greatest return specialist in NFL history. But Mitchell is the best return specialist in NFL history.

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There's a difference too, between greatest and best. Hester was feared. He was revered. But nobody did it better than Mitchell. Nobody has ever fielded more returns than Mitchell (1,070), and nobody has ever compiled more return yards (19,013) than he. Only Hester has more career return touchdowns than Mitchell (13).

While Hester was boom-or-bust on many of his returns, Mitchell always got yardage. He averaged at least 10 yards per punt return in nine seasons and led the NFL in 1994 with 14.1 yards per punt return. He played in 223 of 224 possible games. Nobody did it better.

Mitchell has still yet to get the call from Canton, Ohio for enshrinement. Mitchell was a nominee for the 2017 class, but did not receive enough votes. But with Hester now officially on the clock for enshrinement, one things become clear: A return specialist will head to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Hester will get his name called, and when he does, it will be because of Mitchell. Nobody did it better than Mitchell. The omission of Mitchell has been a contentious point recently, and if the Hall of Fame has not been able to add Mitchell to their hallowed halls, what would it take?

Devin Hester. That's what.

Hester had to do things pro football world had never seen before. He had to do truly great things. Things that you couldn't do in the Madden video games.

If the Hall of Fame has been reluctant to add Mitchell, only a player like Hester would be able to budge them off their archaic line.

Make no mistake about it: Brian Mitchell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

So does Devin Hester, and when he makes it, he'll have B-Mitch to thank.